I’ve heard that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s the case, then Jesus should be ecstatic. After all, a number of years ago there was a campaign that went viral called What Would Jesus Do (WWJD). The point of the campaign is pretty self-explanatory so I won’t go into detail. If you need the detail, you can google WWJD.
Even though imitation shows great affection, imitation is not the greatest form of devotion. Devotion doesn’t just happen. There is a progression in how individuals grow in devotion and love. The progression is impression, influence, imitation, and then, finally, incarnation. We are first impressed by someone. Impression leads to being influenced. Once we are influenced, we may be influenced to so great a degree, we begin imitating the other person. The WWJD campaign revealed that some were so impressed with Jesus, they wanted to be like him, so they wanted to do what he would do.
However, if we stop at imitation, we have stopped short of the greatest display of devotion, which is incarnation. Incarnation seeks to take on the character and dispositions of the other. Jesus was the incarnation of God. Paul tells us that he was the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). Jesus was also the exact representation of God’s nature or character (Hebrews 1:3). While Jesus was the Incarnation of God (with a capital “I”), we are to be the incarnation of God (lower case “i”) as Dr. Robert Mulholland and others have stated.
Imitation may be a form of flattery, but incarnation demonstrates love.